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Bill passes to create affordable housing waitlists

Council also OKs measure to require large homes of 5,000 square feet or more to be net zero energy

An oceanfront home near Makena Landing features solar panels on its roof. The Maui County Council passed a bill on second reading Friday that would require residential buildings with 5,000 square feet or more to be zero net energy in hopes of reducing the impacts of climate change. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

A bill that would create an affordable housing waitlist in hopes of trying to get more people into homes passed on second and final reading Friday.

Bill 111 would shift responsibility of managing an affordable housing project waitlist and its qualification process from developers to the county’s Department of Housing and Human Concerns or a designated third party. The county or its designated third party would also maintain a countywide workforce housing interest list.

Maui County Council members voted 7-1 in favor of the bill, which underwent some changes Friday. Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura voted no and Council Member Kelly King was absent and excused.

Both the department and developers have expressed concern over county liability, chance for error and the additional work the department would need to undertake.

But Council Member Gabe Johnson, chairman of the council’s Affordable Housing Committee, has said that the system needs to be changed, as it is not working with people who still need affordable housing.

He said the county or third party-managed list and the proposals in the bill will stop mortgage steering by developers and prevent affordable housing units from flipping to market rates and then being sold to off-island buyers. It also gives priority to longtime residents.

However, a portion of the bill stating the county “must” buy any leftover affordable homes not sold was amended after much discussion at the end of the more-than-seven-hour council meeting.

Sugimura, who brought the amendment forward, was concerned about the bill requiring the county to purchase the homes and preferred that the county have the option to purchase instead.

Johnson opposed the change and noted that council members should not fear that the county will “get stuck with some bad homes.” He said his housing committee will act as a filter and “we are not going to pass bad projects.”

Council Member Tamara Paltin suggested a “friendly amendment” to say that the county has the right to first refusal to purchase the homes.

The final version the council hammered out said that any units that remain unsold must be first offered to the county at the original sales price.

Council members also passed on second and final reading a bill that would require residential buildings of 5,000 square feet or more to be zero net energy homes. The bill aims to reduce the environmental impacts of residential energy use and contributions to climate change, while reducing home energy costs and improving the energy efficiency of homes across the county.

The council was reviewing agenda items Friday that had been scheduled for Oct. 22. That meeting was adjourned after oral testimony because a paragraph regarding special access had been omitted in the council’s posted agenda, Council Chairwoman Alice Lee said via phone on Monday.

According to the Office of Council Services, the omitted paragraph explained that those needing an auxiliary aid or service or an accommodation due to a disability need to call or email the Office of the County Clerk for assistance.

Lee said changes to the Sunshine Law during the pandemic had complicated matters, with various parts of the standard agenda being altered.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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